Preparing for Sixth Form: six tips to get ahead of the game

Parents Secondary Schools
02 June 2020
Miriam Sechere
Miriam Sechere is an Assistant Principal leading the award winning ARK Globe Academy Sixth Form in Elephant and Castle. Globe Sixth Form is the top preforming Sixth Form in the ARK network and is in the top 10% of sixth forms nationally. Miriam has been working in education for the past 13 years and is committed to ensuring all young people, regardless of their backgrounds, receive the best opportunities allowing them to flourish and become successful, articulate and empowered leaders of our society. Twitter:@miriamsechere
Stepping into Sixth Form can be a daunting and scary prospect at the best of times, let alone trying to navigate the transition during a global pandemic.

However there are so many things you can do to help your teenager get ready for this important next step. Follow these six tips and they’ll be spring boarding into year 12 with complete confidence!

1. Keep learning

It could be easy to fall into the trap of thinking that this is the holiday of the century…but for the brain this could be devastating! You’ve probably heard the old adage use it or lose it” and this is so true when it comes to your brain, it really needs stimulation. As you learn and experience new things, you can reinforce and create neural networks and pathways in your brain, this helps make your brain stronger and adaptable to change. So…how can you keep your teenager’s brain ticking during this time? Many Sixth Forms and colleges have produced bridging/​transition work for the different A levels and BTECs, I would advise completing a minimum of 5 that they are interested in. If the 6th Form or college of their choice doesn’t have these readily available on their websites drop them an email- they will be able to point you in the right direction of where you can find the best work to do. There are also loads of websites you can access that will help keep your teen’s brain firing neurones… check these out:

2. Read ahead

Never underestimate the power of reading. Reading Improves the functioning of the brain (I see a theme here!), it Increases our vocabulary, our knowledge and sharpens our memory. All of these skills are vital when stepping into Year 12. Every course your child is hoping to study will have produced a text book or revision book of some kind. Find out from their future Sixth Form or College what exam board they are using and check out their recommended reading list on the exam board website – many exam boards and text book publishers are making their official text books available for free online due to our current crisis, so take advantage of this and get ahead.

3. Read widely

Yes reading is SO important I’ve written it twice! This time it’s not just about reading for the course they’re interested in…go beyond the course. When moving into Sixth Form and beyond their ability to read widely is so important. They should read fiction and non-fiction, theology and biography, current affairs and history, be aware of the latest developments in the field they’re interested in, understand a different period of history they haven’t studied before, checkout different forms of poetry they’d never come across in the school curriculum. Here are some places that can get them started:

4. Take an interest in current affairs

Many of the A Level and L3 BTEC courses require an element of wider contemporary knowledge, simply being aware of the news via the BBC/​Sky news app will pay dividends. A Level /BTEC study is about evaluating the knowledge they are being taught whilst applying it to real life, current issues.

5. Think about the future

Start thinking about the future as soon as possible. Check out online University prospectuses or apprenticeship opportunities, read about different courses on offer, find out about the entry criteria and what they look for in an applicant. It may seem early…but the earlier they start being aware of the options out there, the quicker they will be able to build their personal portfolio of experience. For competitive courses such as medicine, it can really pay off to build a repertoire of experience in the lead up to and during year 12. Are there online academic societies they can join? Voluntary work they could undertake? Online taster courses they could complete? An academic project like the EPQ that could keep them busy? That UCAS personal statement will need to be as strong as they can make it. Here are some sites that could help:

6. And finally…sleep!

Sleep underpins all that we do and at a time like now the temptation for us all is to get out of routine…don’t. Go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Keeping a consistent routine is so important especially during this time, it’s important your child is up and raring to go with the energy and discipline to take on year 12. Get your teenager to Use night mode” on their mobile phone to reduce blue light, then avoid all devices an hour before sleep. Sleep deprivation over time leads to impaired cognitive functioning. During these difficult times it is even more important that that your teenager eats well and rests properly so that they are ready to learn the next day!